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What will change after Saturday’s right-wing march?

January 23rd, 2012

Commenting on Saturday’s large pro-government march in Budapest, a left-wing commentator recognises that government supporters are good at organising “revolutions”. Right wing analysts express diverging views on what Hungary’s attitude should be towards international investors and the European Union.

In Népszabadság, Miklós Hargitay describes the hundred thousand strong crowd as “not representative of the Facebook-generation at all”. The author had to wait for three underground trains to pinpoint the first demonstrator under 30. Nevertheless, he admits that the crowd was impressive and concludes on a sarcastic note: “The ‘national side’ is uniquely resourceful at staging revolutions. Now all it has to do is learn to govern.”

In Demokrata, editor-in-chief András Bencsik, one of the initiators of the march, knew beforehand that the turnout would be unprecedented:  “Never before have so many people rallied in defence of this government elected by a sweeping majority, in defence of our constitutional achievements and of (prime minister) Viktor Orbán.” In his editorial, Bencsik describes the attitude of the mainstream media as “passive”, but praises the right-wing Facebook community: “they have created their own public sphere”. He also explains why the demonstration was baptised a “peace march”:  “Because the attack on our country is tantamount to an invasion. It is aimed at toppling Viktor Orbán and at replacing him with a puppet banker. That is something we cannot tolerate. We will not allow our democratically elected leaders to be hunted down one by one.”

In Népszabadság’s weekend supplement, Tamás Mellár, a conservative economist who used to be president of the National Office of Statistics under the first Orbán government, until he was removed by the left-wing administration in 2002, believes the demonstrators promote, unwittingly, the worst possible economic scenario for Hungary. Professor Mellár, who has been critical of the government’s economic policy for the past 18 months, is convinced that Hungary badly needs an agreement with the IMF and the European Union , and that anti-western pressure from the streets does not helpful to that end. Mellár finds many accusations levelled against the government unjustified, but says the basic problem was the mistaken policies which gave rise to such views. “An economic freedom fight, to be successful, needs a strong country and this is what we should be working on first,” –Mellár warns.

In Heti Válasz, editor Gábor Borókai offers a very different interpretation of Hungary’s problems with the IMF and the EU. He thinks Hungary is being criticised because the big international institutions set out to protect the interests of multinational investors. “The markets have drawn huge profit surpluses when the State and the public were slipping heavily into debt, but have no intention of sharing the burden of that debt.”  Those are the forces that intend to remove Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, because he has tried to impose their fair share on them, he continues. Borókai contends that the spectacular clash between left and right, who brand each other ‘fascist’ or ‘communist’, is just a manipulative surface. “The real conflict is between localists and globalists. And the scale is wide and colourful. At one extreme are the wealthy, who subordinate everything to the interests of global capital, while on the other, the ultra radicals preach complete isolation.”

In Figyelő, conservative economist László Csaba contends that parallels between today’s Hungary and the Argentina of the early 2000s are misleading. Hungary is far from being on the verge of a default. What is similar is both countries’ historical propensity to produce public deficits before introducing repeated rounds of austerity measures. But Argentina rarely stopped accumulating debt before it was too late to avoid bankruptcy, while Hungary has always reacted in time. Today, Professor Csaba continues, in addition to radically slashing public expenses, the government should also put forward a credible five year plan, which would spell out the expected evolution of the national economy, the position of public finances, and the measures it intends to take to put the economy back on track. “Signing an agreement with the IMF will not solve our problems by itself. We will also have to make it absolutely clear – in words as well as in deeds – that Hungary is no Argentina and will not be one”.

In 168 óra, Tamás Mészáros fully agrees with the criticism levelled against  Prime Minister Orbán’s government in the West, and does not believe that the moderate conservative critics of the government will be able to rectify the course taken by the right-wing régime. He thinks they are too cautious and subservient to be successful. On the other hand, he sees no sign of a powerful (opposition) alliance “which would be the only force able to perform a real policy shift.” On the contrary, he suggests, it is unclear yet whether the LMP is about to gain strength or fall apart. Nor is it clear yet whether the Democratic Coalition will promote or hinder the unity of the opposition. He is also uncertain of the MSZP’s ability “to step across its own shadow”. Finally he wonders aloud  whether the left-wing parties will be able to co-operate with the civic movements that have staged successful rallies recently in protest against government policies. “It will take at least a year before we can map the outlines of the camp of those supporters of the republic who can effectively be mobilised,” – Mészáros concludes.

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